Opinion | Hold Presidents Accountable, ‘No Matter When’

To the Editor:

It is time for a constitutional amendment to hold presidents and other elected officials accountable for actions taken while in office, no matter when the trial occurs or the wrongdoing is uncovered.

Senate Republicans, led by Mitch McConnell, acquitted Donald Trump by threading the political needle between actually condemning Mr. Trump’s wrongful actions and appeasing Trump loyalists by inventing a constitutional ambiguity to rely upon when voting to acquit.

Mr. Trump riled his crowd on Twitter and in front of TV cameras. But what about a president who commits wrongdoing and covers it up for long enough to finish his or her term? Should Congress not investigate and try for impeachment those who commit atrocious but covert wrongdoings?

Congress can and should resolve this ambiguity by proposing an amendment to ensure that future presidents and other officials will be held accountable, no matter when.

E. Jacob Wolf
Baltimore

To the Editor:

Re “How Democrats Could Have Done Better” (Op-Ed, Feb. 15):

Prof. Michael W. McConnell says that if the House had charged former President Donald Trump with something broader than “incitement of insurrection” — such as using the mob and other tactics to intimidate election officials to void the election results — it would have been harder for senators to vote to acquit. That may be so, but it seems unlikely that two-thirds of the Senate was going to convict the former president no matter how the charge against him had been framed.

Another charge the Democrats could have used was violating Section 3 of the 14th Amendment. That provision precludes any officer of the United States from ever holding office again if they have “engaged in insurrection.”

Given the votes in the House and the Senate and the statements of leading Republicans, it appears that a majority believed that the former president did engage in insurrection. Instead of an impeachment acquittal, invoking the 14th Amendment might well have led both to a finding of wrongdoing by the former president and to his being barred from running for office again.

Walter Smith
Washington

To the Editor:

Michael W. McConnell and other Monday morning legal quarterbacks have made thoughtful arguments about how the impeachment managers might have framed their case differently. Interesting, but it sort of misses the point: The defense could have responded to their arguments with an impersonation of Tiny Tim playing “Tiptoe Through the Tulips” on the ukulele and the outcome would have been exactly the same.

Barry Katz
Palo Alto, Calif.

To the Editor:

Re “Impartial Panel Will Investigate Capitol Attack, Pelosi Pledges” (news article, Feb. 16):

While a panel like the 9/11 Commission will reveal the truth about why and how the Capitol was left defenseless despite dire warnings about a Donald Trump-instigated insurrection, it cannot address the root cause: Mr. Trump’s criminality. He must be prosecuted at the scene of his crime, in Washington, because he committed heinous crimes here. While state criminal investigations eventually may provide accountability for his other crimes, none address his most despicable conduct leading to death here, no matter how difficult such a prosecution might be.

He is not above the law, and he must be treated just like those he led to commit crimes.

Nancy Luque
Washington
The writer is a former assistant U.S. attorney.

To the Editor:

President Biden should make Jan. 6 a national day of remembrance, similar to 9/11. Our country was under attack. Innocent lives were lost. Our national psyche was changed forever. We should remember how close we were to losing our democracy. Let’s never forget Jan. 6.

Jayne S. Robinson
New York

To the Editor:

Watching Representative Jamie Raskin argue his commendable, albeit unsuccessful, case before the Senate with its many poignant references to his children, I was reminded of Atticus Finch’s words to his son, Jem, in “To Kill a Mockingbird”: “I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. It’s when you know you’re licked before you begin, but you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what.”

Tom Putnam
Arlington, Mass.

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